IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Analytical aspects of the debt problems of heavily indebted poor countries

  • Claessens, Stijn
  • Detragiache, Enrica
  • Kanbur, Ravi
  • Wickham, Peter

A group of heavily indebted low-income countries (HIPCs), most in Sub-Saharan Africa, has continued to experience external debt problems. Because the HIPCs'economic characteristics and external imbalances are very different from those of middle-income countries, the analysis of debt problems and debt-reduction must be modified and complemented in important ways. Therefore, the authors revisit the methodological issues underlying debt sustainability analysis, as well as theory and empirical evidence on how large debts affect economic performance. Their main question is: Should consideration be given to more upfront debt reduction for HIPCs, over and above that provided under current mechanisms, or should debts continue to be refinanced, subject to conditionality? Ongoing refinancing with conditionality reduces moral hazard and gives countries an incentive to maintain good policies. However, this approach entails transition costs, can create uncertainty, may lack credibility, and can impede local ownership of reform programs. Upfront debt reduction can create moral hazard problems and may weaken the incentives for maintaining sound policy. There are theoretical arguments about why a high level of debt can impede investment and policy reform. Although empirical evidence concerning the hypothesis that HIPCs suffer significant adverse effects from their large debt overhang is inconclusive, evidence from middle-income countries suggests that debt reduction can benefit an economy if the policy environment is right. Whether there should be further debt reduction for specific heavily indebted low-income countries depends on the facts for each case and requires quantitative analysis of data about different forces at play in the countries involved.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1618.

in new window

Date of creation: 30 Jun 1996
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1618
Contact details of provider: Postal: 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433
Phone: (202) 477-1234
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Eaton, Jonathan & Fernandez, Raquel, 1995. "Sovereign debt," Handbook of International Economics, in: G. M. Grossman & K. Rogoff (ed.), Handbook of International Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 3, pages 2031-2077 Elsevier.
  2. Borensztein, Eduardo, 1990. "Debt overhang, credit rationing and investment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 315-335, April.
  3. Detragiache, Enrica, 1992. "The simple dynamics of a debt crisis," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 11(6), pages 552-566, December.
  4. Johnson, J.H. & Wasty, S.S., 1993. "Borrower Ownership of Adjustment Programs and the Political Economy of Reform," World Bank - Discussion Papers 199, World Bank.
  5. Claessens, Stijn & Oks, Daniel & van Wijnbergen, Sweder, 1993. "Interest rates, growth, and external debt : the macroeconomic impact of Mexico's Brady deal," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1147, The World Bank.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1618. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.